These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Corruption? The developing world has bigger problems
Few challenges in international development ignite as much passion as corruption. Perhaps ironically given the recent Panama Papers scandal, the UK government has encouraged the “zero tolerance” approach to corruption in international development. This approach may be the ideal, but an effective strategy for tackling corruption must acknowledge that it is a social and political problem, rather than purely a moral one. In March, we contributed to the UK parliament’s International Development Committee inquiry on tackling corruption overseas. In our evidence, we argued that corruption in the developing world is not the worst of all evils—and that it cannot be wiped out without collateral damage.
Time to let go: remaking humanitarian action for the modern era
The humanitarian sector is suffering a crisis of legitimacy. Despite a decade of system-wide reforms, the sector is failing to adapt to meet the needs of people in crises. As humanitarian emergencies become more frequent, more complex and last longer, the need for radical change is ever growing. Drawing on four years of research, this report argues that the humanitarian system needs to let go of some fundamental – but outdated – assumptions, structures and behaviours to respond effectively to modern day crises. It argues for a new model of humanitarian action, one that requires letting go of the current paradigm.
One year ago today, the first in a series of massive earthquakes rocked Nepal. Nearly 9 thousand people lost their lives in the disaster. Over 20 thousand people were injured – many critically. As many as 450 aftershocks have shook the country since.
In all, the earthquakes upended the lives of 8 million Nepalis – nearly a third of the population. The devastation was wide-spread: the Government of Nepal led an extensive exercise to assess the damages and losses, which a Post Disaster Needs Assessment estimated in the order of US$7.1 billion. As it turned out, the poorest and the most vulnerable communities were hit the hardest. The government estimates that the disaster pushed nearly 1 million Nepalis back into poverty.
From private homes to public infrastructure; and farms, businesses and historical monuments – hardly anything was spared in the trail of destruction. But from the government’s own assessment, rural housing stood out as one area of greatest need, in excess of US$1.2 billion. Early on, the government estimated that over half a million homes were destroyed.
In June last year, exactly two months after the first earthquake, 56 governments and international organizations came together in Kathmandu and pledged US$4.1 billion in reconstruction assistance. The World Bank Group was among them. At the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction, the Bank Group offered a financial package of up to US$500 million.
Soon after the earthquakes, the Government of Nepal promised NRs. 200,000 (approximately US$1,900) in assistance to each family rendered homeless by the calamity. TheEmergency Housing Reconstruction Program, supported by the World Bank and the governments of Japan, the United States, Switzerland and Canada, is designed to make good on that promise.
It has been exactly three months since the Nepal earthquake first struck and one month since the donor conference. The humanitarian phase is nearing its end, the international presence is starting to move onto the next crisis, and high level international dignitaries have now returned to their capitals. The earthquake is no longer making headline news and the government is getting back to business as usual, albeit with the huge challenge of rebuilding.
Now is time to take stock of the events from the past three months. During a crisis, there is no time for those involved to look back at what has been accomplished. What matters is the next immediate action and challenge to overcome. Last week, in the Bank headquarters, our management and some members of the earthquake response team presented the progress achieved thus far to an overcrowded room. This was my first opportunity to reflect on the disaster and I was almost overcome with emotion. Be they senior government officials, the Bank’s country office team, first- emergency responders, or Nepalis, it is difficult to articulate just what folks have overcome in Nepal.
When disaster strikes, air transport is often the only feasible mode of transportation for first responders and urgently needed relief supplies. Following an earthquake, tsunami or hurricane, most roads, rail tracks and even ports become unusable, as they are blocked for days by debris. Airports, on the other hand, are remarkably sustainable and, within hours, usually become operational again.
The main reason of this sustainability is that runways are on open space where debris of a disaster can be removed quickly. Furthermore, a runway usually suffers remarkable little damage even by a strong earthquake, such as experienced last week in Nepal or in Haiti in 2010. And even if there are cracks and holes in the runway, modern relief aircraft like C-130s can operate safely for some time.
However, the challenges of operating relief flights can quickly become overwhelming, especially for airports in developing countries that usually experience only moderate traffic. In Haiti, for example, more than 74 aircraft landed on a single day following the earthquake to unload supplies. Such traffic poses risks in the air; air traffic control, often hampered by inadequate or damaged surveillance installations, can’t cope managing all arriving aircraft. On the ground, where tarmac and taxiways are small, congestion quickly reigns which prevents the arrival of more flights.
Editor’s note: MIGA staffer Dessislav Dobrev recently returned from Nepal where he had been conducting due diligence for an energy project when the earthquake hit. These are his reflections.
It was just over a week ago. The streets of Kathmandu echoed with screams of horror and helplessness. Waves of people rushing hysterically, many with blood gushing down their limbs or foreheads. The suffering that followed cannot be put in words, they would only diminish the reality on the ground. A snapshot of a world already in terrible need bitterly exacerbated by the uncontrollable force of nature. A snapshot for me but a daily reality for so many.
Please allow me to share a few thoughts after having witnessed the pain under the shattered buildings and on the dismantled streets of the Nepalese capital. The human suffering was personalized for me to a degree that cannot be replicated by images on TV and social media, which have sadly numbed to some extent some of our most innate senses of compassion and empathy.
First, this disaster not only sheds light on the existing vulnerability of so many. It also shows how critical it is that we continue to work in the most vulnerable countries. The correlation is evident – for example, if we help build better and more robust infrastructure, we can have a real impact on a situation such as this. A real impact translated into saving lives and livelihoods. Every brick matters.
More importantly, in the inertia of our busy quotidian in our offices in Washington, DC and elsewhere, it is perhaps a little easy or convenient to lose sight of why we are all here. This is not supposed to be an ordinary job or a regular career where we simply make a comfortable living. It is a calling, a mission. We are entrusted by the world to spend every minute of our time here making it count for someone out there. We are fiduciaries of the world’s unrelenting quest and need for betterment, and are ultimately accountable to the people we serve – those in need.